Everyday writing in Graeco-Roman and late antique Egypt, I - VIII AD. A socio-semiotic study of communicative variation

Begin - Einde 
2018 - 2023 (lopend)
Vakgroep Taalkunde



This five-year project aims to generate a paradigm shift in the understanding of Graeco-Roman and Late Antique communication. Non-literary, ‘docu­mentary’ texts from Ancient Egypt such as letters, petitions and contracts have provided and continue to provide a key witness for our know­ledge of the administration, education, economy, etc. of Ancient Egypt. This project argues that since documentary texts re­present originals, their external characteristics should also be brought into the inter­preta­tion: ele­ments such as hand­writing, linguistic register or writing material transmit indirect social messages concerning hier­archy, status, and power relations, and can therefore be considered ‘semiotic resources’. The project’s driving hypo­thesis is that communicative variation – variation that is functionally insignificant but socially significant (e.g. there are - there’s - it’s a lot of people) – enables the expression of social meaning. The main aim of this project is to analyse the nature of this communicative variation. To this end, a multidisciplinary team of six researchers (one PI, one post-doc, and four PhD’s) will apply recent insights form socio-semiotic and socio-linguistic theory to a corpus of Graeco-Roman and Late Antique documentary texts (I – VIII AD) by means of a three-level approach: (i) an open-access database of annotated documentary texts will be created; (ii) the ‘semiotic potential’ of the different semiotic resources that play a role in documentary writing will be analysed; (iii) the inter­relationships between the different semiotic resources will be studied. The project will have a significant scientific impact: (i) it will be the first to offer a holistic perspective towards the ‘meaning’ of documentary texts; (ii) the digital tool will open up new ways to investigate Ancient texts; (iii) it will make an important contribution to current socio-semiotic and socio-linguistic research; (iv) it will provide new insights about humans as social beings.



Postdoctorale medewerker(s)



Technische medewerker(s)